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Leaders reject Home Office push for return to performance targets

Police leaders and staff associations have expressed concerns at Home Office plans to rank forces in performance league tables.

On target? Plans for performance targets have been panned by leaders

On target? Plans for performance targets have been panned by leaders

Date - 22nd April 2021
By - Chris Smith
14 Comments 14 Comments}

The performance target plans which have already been put before Chief Constables in a Home Office letter, could leave vulnerable people at risk and politcise  operational decision making, senior figures have warned. 

Concern was also raised that a Whitehall department which also has responsibility for UK borders and domestic terrorism – supported by 30 public bodies – would struggle to micro-manage policing.

The Police Federation said the move represented “a return to a damaging, target-driven culture”.

Chair John Apter, warned: "Scrutiny and accountability are already a large part of policing, so these proposals for league tables would risk a return to a very damaging and target-driven culture.”

The concerns were raised after details were leaked of a proposal to rank forces on five priorities plus victim satisfaction.

The six crime issues are cybercrime, murders, serious violence, organised crime, illegal drugs and serious neighbourhood incidents.

The assessments would not be published but Police and Crime Commissioners would be expected to share details with the public.

The new level of oversight was part of the “quid pro quo” resulting from the 20,000 officer Uplift programme, according to the letter sent by Police Minister Kit Malthouse.

Chiefs were told in the letter that there would be “national accountability and collective responsibility”.

Forces will be assessed on data from crime and conviction reports, drug treatment orders and hospital admissions for youth stabbings.

Mr Malthouse said the assessment would be made by the National Policing Board to “understand the trends and drive real improvements in outcomes over the next three to four years”.

The minister said the new approach “does not represent a return to force-led numerical targets”.

A government source close to the Home Office said: “It’s about tracking progress — we’re giving forces extra officers and now we want to see outcomes. Police chiefs are very competitive. Which police chief is going to want to be the worst performing police force?”

Senior officers have privately said that they also want other Whitehall departments to take responsibility for problems that are routinely dealt with by response officers.

They want the NHS and local authority social services departments to ensure children at risk don’t end up in custody suites and for the NHS to stop cost shunting by leaving officers to carry out safeguarding visits to people with serious mental health issues.

One chief constable said the Home Office couldn’t claim to give Police and Crime Commissioners greater control while setting the agenda at the top. “You can’t have both,” they said

A Fed rep shared on social media: “If targets came back, as a Supervisor I would question my lowest performing officers and set them development plans. Who would probably then offer no discretion and issue tickets for everything possible and increase their S and S.”

Concerns were also raised over the impact on minority groups such as BAME and LGBTQ+.

Andy George, President of the National Black Police Association said: “Whilst holding Chief Constables to account is very important, this risks increasing the disproportionate use of police powers on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. A national community engagement plan that understands the differing needs of communities is needed more.”

Theresa May created a unit to improve domestic violence outcomes that included Home Office officials who reported directly to her senior staff.

Rick Muir, Director of the Police Foundation think tank, said chiefs shouldn’t be surprised by the Home Office move.

“Clearly, with the formation of the Policing Board there was no question senior officers were going to be put in some kind of national performance regime,” he told Police Oracle.

“Theresa May and Amber Rudd moved away from this towards local accountability. It is a big shift; the Home Office has decided on a more central direction similar to the New Labour era.”

But tackling organised crime groups or cyber fraud cannot be done by one force alone.

Mr Muir said: “PCCs will only reflect what their local electorate are saying. It appears that the government is concerned about knife crime, organised crime and cyber crime. Those aren’t really visible to the public.”

He warned: “One of the problems with targets is that they create rigidity: there’s a basket of things and other issues get neglected.”

He also highlighted the role of HM Inspectorate in assessing performance: “It’s perfectly clear who the good forces are,” he said.

That concern is shared by the Police Federation.

Mr Apter said: “Mechanisms for holding individuals and forces to account are in place, and we are already amongst the most scrutinised professionals in the world.

“My message to government would be to stop and think before returning to the mistakes of their predecessors. Reintroducing targets in policing would be a damaging and retrograde step," he said.

"In previous years when they have been used we have seen forces focus on targets to the exclusion of other issues. This is not good for the public and certainly no good for the victims of crime,” he said.

“These league tables would also restrict the ability of forces to focus on local issues, because Chief Officers would be chasing targets which were judged on criteria set in Whitehall. If, despite these warnings this is pursued it will fail, and it will be damaging."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The public expects the government to work with the police to cut crime and keep them safe.”

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24229540 - Fri, 23 April 2021

I have spent several hours over the last week or two encouraging people to participate in the imminent PCC elections, so that they can influence local police governance. Why did I bother if the Home Office intend to strong arm forces to meet their demands. And this is a Home Office who today have been chided by the High Court for their unlawful acts (viv a vis Windrush survivors)!